“Sometimes I wonder about my life. I live a small life, well, small but valuable. And sometimes I wonder, do I do it because I like it, or because I haven’t been brave? So much of what I see reminds me of something I read in a book, when shouldn’t it be the other way around? I don’t really want an answer. I just want to send this cosmic question out into the void. So good night, dear void…”
— Kathleen Kelly in “You’ve Got Mail”
I’m sure I’ve used this quote before, perhaps even on this blog, to describe how I feel much of the time. I’ve been doing a lot of thinking about my life lately. There’s something about dealing with Big Stuff—my dad’s cancer, a grandmother who’s basically a medical miracle, a variety of other things—that makes you think about the Little Stuff. I’m in Mondo Beyondo, which asks you to unearth all sorts of secret dreams in your heart and write them down, and believe that they’re going to happen. It’s scary, and makes you feel vulnerable in the best and worst of ways.
The older I get, the more comfortable I get in my own skin. I’ve accepted the fact that I’m kind of boring and that I need a lot of time alone to recharge. I’ve learned to be grateful for my little quirks and oddities. Sure, there are things I want to improve about myself, but most days, I wake up, and I think, “Hey friend…I kinda like you!”
But the thing is this: being in your twenties is the weirdest. I have friends who are the same age, but are at dramatically different places than me, and than one another. Some are getting married. Some have 2 and 3 kids. Some are just finishing college and others still are just starting. I have friends who are traveling all over the world, others who are living all over the country with no real home base. Some are lawyers and doctors, some are making their millions in sales. Some are living at home with no immediate plans for the future, and they like it that way.
I feel like I reside somewhere in the middle. I started my twenties married and on the track to have babies and such; my life fell apart, and I went the other way, going out all the time and being a typical “young 20-something”, doing a job that wasn’t permanent while I figured life out. When I started teaching two and a half years ago, I was forced to settle down, and the truth is, I love it. I’m not married, but I’m in a long-term relationship. I’m in a career. My life is stable, full of the best friends I could ask for, and a close relationship with my family and a million good things.
I am grateful.
But—there’s always a but—I wonder if somehow I’m missing something. There’s all this mystique around your twenties, and in some ways, pressure. I could be traveling the world, sans real commitment or being tied down. I could be going out every night, drinking and being silly. I could be living abroad. I could be married with babies, or buying a house. But I’m not. I’m working in a job I love, sure. But still, I find myself wondering: is there something else I should be doing? Am I squandering this time?
One of my biggest flaws, easily, is that I have “grass is always greener” syndrome. I find myself always asking “what’s next?” in every situation, and after it passes, I kick myself for not enjoying it more, for not just letting go and taking it all in for what it is.
So, while I’m trying to be more brave, to say yes, and look for opportunities, I’m also trying to slow down, to look around and be grateful for exactly what’s going on, whether or not it’s “what I should be doing in my twenties.”